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Lake Manly(?) Shorelines in the Eastern Mojave Desert, California

  • Roger LeB. Hooke (a1)

Near Mesquite Spring on the southern edge of the Soda Lake basin in the Mojave Desert, there is a shoreline of an ancient lake at an elevation of 340 m above sea level. At present, Soda Lake would overflow at 280 m; a lake surface at 340 m would extend ∼240 km northward, to the northern end of Death Valley. Shorelines and lacustrine deposits near the Salt Spring and Saddle Peak Hills, 75 km north of Mesquite Spring, are at ∼180 m; a lake surface at this elevation today would also extend to the northern end of Death Valley. The most prominent shoreline of the pluvial lake that occupied Death Valley during the Pleistocene, Lake Manly, is that of the Blackwelder stand which ended ∼120,000 yr ago. This shoreline is ∼90 m above sea level. The Mesquite Spring and Salt Spring Hills shorelines were probably formed by the Blackwelder stand and subsequently displaced with respect to one another, tectonically, due to transpression in the northeastern Mojave Desert and NW–SE extension across Death Valley. This tectonic regime would result in subsidence of Death Valley and the Salt Spring Hills relative to Mesquite Spring. A reconstruction suggests that the topography at the time of the Blackwelder stand would have had a sill near the level of the highest lake, and also one ∼20 m lower, corresponding to the next most prominent shoreline in Death Valley. Expansion of the lake over these sills would have increased evaporation, thus possibly stabilizing the lake level.

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Quaternary Research
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